MONTREAL - The Supreme Court of Canada will soon resolve the issue of rights for common-law spouses, predicts the lawyer for an unmarried woman who is appealing a court verdict denying her the right to alimony from a wealthy ex.
The case pits a prominent Quebec businessman against his former lover, and he contends he should not have to pay alimony for the couple's three children because he was never legally married to their mother.
Lawyer Anne-France Goldwater says the high-profile Quebec case has everything to do with common-law spouses having the same legal rights and protections as married couples.
"A lot of couples today, of all ages, believe that because at the end of the day they are in an intimate and committed relationship . . . they feel they have all the rights and protections of the law, but they don't," Goldwater said during a news conference Monday at her Montreal office.
"We think this is not only unfair but we think it is unconstitutional."
Goldwater represents the woman in what is widely known as the Eric and Lola case, because the pair can't be identified under a provincial family law aimed at protecting the identity of the children.
The veteran family lawyer said the appeal likely won't be heard until next year and regardless of the outcome, the case will likely end up before the Supreme Court of Canada.
"It takes the Supreme Court to solve this problem," Goldwater said.
Suzanne Pringle, one of the lawyers representing the defendant, said Monday her client regrets that the case is continuing and worries about the impact on their three children.
The arguments in appeal were already rejected in the Quebec Superior Court ruling, Pringle added.
Statistics Canada figures show that there are slightly more couples in common-law relationships in all of the rest of Canada than there are in Quebec alone.
Common-law couples have varying rights depending on where they live in Canada and - in some provinces - have alimony and property rights.
But despite the fact that one-third of all Quebec couples are unmarried, it remains the only province that does not recognize common-law unions.
"Society has evolved, but the civil code has not," Goldwater said of Quebec's rules.